Shiva is the third member of the trimurti, the triad of supreme deities in Hinduism. The three gods of the trimurti: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, are responsible for creating, preserving, and destroying the universe, respectively. Although destruction conjures up images of apocalypse, Shiva’s role is essential to maintain universal balance. Shiva and his consort, Parvati, are thought to dwell in the Kailash Mountains in the Himalayas. Discover more about Shiva, the lord of the cosmic dance.
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Shiva has several distinct features in his representations in Hindu art and religion. Notably, Shiva is pictured with a blue throat. Shiva’s throat became blue after he selflessly swallowed a poison called halahala generated by the gods’ churning the ocean of milk. The Ganges River also flows through his matted hair. Shiva is frequently pictured holding a trident, a visual representation of the Hindu trimurti. He is often depicted with a two-headed drum as well.
Shiva has a variety of forms, each of which represent a different aspect of the god. These aspects range from the destructive Bhairava to the more peaceful, dancing Nataraja. Shiva can merge with his consort Parvati to form a half-male, half-female aspect known as Ardhanarishvara. A phallic statue known as a Lingam is an abstract representation of Shiva often seen in Hindu temples.
CONSORTS AND COMPANIONS
Shiva’s primary consort is Parvati, but like Shiva she manifests in many different forms. Some of the more well-known of these aspects are Durga and Kali. Parvati is herself a reincarnation of Sati, Shiva’s first wife. Sati immolated herself over her father’s rudeness towards Shiva. Shiva is often closely associated with the white bull Nandi who he rides when he travels.
GOD OF DESTRUCTION
Shiva’s power is not to be underestimated. His third eye, typically hidden, destroys all who look on it. This eye was powerful enough to incinerate Kama, a love goddess. He also cut off Brahma’s fifth head over an insult. Even the seemingly more peaceful form of Nataraja is not without violent or destructive episodes. In one such episode, Nataraja trampled the dwarf Apasmara while dancing. As this dwarf is viewed as the symbol of ignorance, however, the trampling was well-deserved.
Shiva and Parvati have several children together. Their firstborn is the six-headed Skanda (also known as Kartikeya). The elephant-headed Ganesha is their other son. Shiva decapitated Ganesha in anger when he attempted to prevent Shiva from seeing Parvati. As a way of apology to his wife, Shiva provided Ganesha with his famous elephant head. The pair also have a daughter, Ashoka Sundari, who is less mentioned in Hindu scripture than her brothers.
Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out:
* How exactly does Shiva connect with subatomic physics?
* There are more stories about Shiva than we could possibly do justice here. Visit this site to learn more about them!
* We’ve learned about the trimurti, but have you heard of the tridevi?
* To learn more about the origin of Lingam and what exactly it represents, watch this video!
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